Saturday, 25 August 2012

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto by Geoffrey McSkimming - book review

It took me a while to get in to Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto. It's not a book that grabs you in the first few pages but it does grow on you and I was somewhat surprised to find how often Phyllis crossed my mind during the day.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is about a young girl with a family history of magic helping her friends and the local Chief Inspector solve some unexplainable thefts.

There's lots of information about different magic tricks and some about the history of magic so it will really appeal to kids who are into magic, or who love a good mystery.

I hate book reviews that compare one book to another - it is completely useless if you haven't read the one being used for comparison and always feels a little patronising, as if the reviewer is thinking "Oh, you haven't read it ... goodness" - but I am going to break my own rule and say that this book really reminded me of Odo Hirsch's book Pincus Corbett's Strange Adventure.

Both have mysterious crimes and a dark, slightly sinister feel to them, plus really quirky characters. And neither of them assume that in order to interest children you have to immediately overwhelm them with action. Both authors give children's attention spans the benefit of the doubt and the books feel richer for it.

It is always interesting to read books that are intended for kids but where the main child characters behave, and are treated, like miniature adults. That is definitely the case here, and while it is totally unbelievable that Phyllis would be allowed to poke around the scene of a crime, it is a useful tool for the author and also would potentially be very appealing to kids reading it.

One of the things I loved best about Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto is the outstandingly cool cover. I especially loved the picture of Phyllis which was drawn by Peter Sheehan. She just looks so quirky and interesting, and it gives you a great sense of her character and the book.

Who'll love this: Thoughtful girls aged about nine to 13 - there's not a mention of boyfriends, music or clothes and for some girls that will be a massive relief! Plus anyone who is in to magic will definitely enjoy it.
Cost: $14.95
Published by Allen & Unwin

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